Peter Benchley's Creature Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Olive Films
Directed by Stuart Gillard
Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon
1998, Region A, 240 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on May 12th, 2015
Craig T. Nelson as Dr. Simon Chase
Kim Cattrall as Dr. Amanda Mayson
Colm Feore as Admiral Richland
Giancarlo Esposito as Peniston/ Werewolf
Cress Williams as Tall Man
Michael Michele as Tauna
Blu Mankuma as Rollie Gibson
Matthew Carey as Max
Megalyn Echikunwoke as Elizabeth
Michael Reilly Burke as Adam Puckett
Back in the early 1970s, the United States government was desperate to win the war in Vietnam, and was pumping money into genetic experiments in hopes of creating a game changing defense system. When an impatient military leader named Richland inspects a secret research facility in the Caribbean, he discovers that the results of US efforts are more impressive than anyone could imagine. What started as an idea to cross a dolphin with a shark quickly led to the creation of a shark-human hybrid! Unfortunately, things go wrong and in the wake of a few deaths, the project is deemed a failure and the creature is set to be destroyed. The titular beast escapes into the wild and all evidence of the program is swept under the rug for the next twenty-five years.
Jumping ahead to present-day 1998, Dr. Simon Chase is researching sharks and protecting marine life from poachers. Working closely with Tall Man, his local assistant, Chase struggles to find an elusive cure for cancer found somewhere within the shark community. His ex-wife, Dr. Amanda Mayson, and son Max arrive on the island, but this is not a great time for family bonding, as there are a series of bizarre attacks being blamed on sharks. Once it becomes apparent that there is something unnatural in the waters, the community reacts with a religious fervor that seeks protection through religious rituals. One quirky local, a man known as Werewolf, seems to have extensive knowledge of the creature. Chase is caught in the middle of protecting his family from the monster while trying to rescue the scientific discoveries from the government facility. The hideous-killer-mutant-shark-man doesn’t care about their conflicts or their voodoo – it just wants to see how many mammals it can digest in the shortest amount of time.
There’s a reason author Peter Benchley’s name is above the title of this film, and that reason is Jaws. While he went on to have several books adapted into movies like The Deep and The Island, his claim to fame was cemented with the breakout success of his killer shark tale. Benchley spent the next few decades chasing the success that launched his career and managed to write other popular nautical novels that were adapted into television miniseries including The Beast (1996) and Creature (1998). The latter was written for the screen by Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape), and while certain elements were polished for the format, the piece retains Benchley’s signature style of high seas adventure. There’s more than a few nods to Jaws here, most egregiously a scene in which someone suggests a recently captured shark be opened on a dock to search for victims inside. In a nice reversal of motivations, this time around our hero spends his time defending sharks. Director Stuart Gillard (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) delivers all of the requisite made-for-television thrills, but the piece would have benefitted from a traditional 90-minute running time rather than the extremely bloated 240 minutes attained.
Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist) stars as Dr. Simon Chase, the man with a thing for sharks, but not for shark-men. He does a fine job with the material he is given and manages to play it straight and emerges unscathed. Kim Cattrall (Big Trouble in Little China) is also up to the task of evading monsters as Amanda, the no-nonsense ex-wife on a mission. Thankfully, she also knows the type of movie she is making and never takes things too seriously. I’m not sure who eats more scenery – the shark or Colm Feore (Storm of the Century) as Admiral Richland. This cardboard baddie is fun to watch, but can’t afford to be onscreen much longer than he is before descending into parody. I feel bad for Giancarlo Esposito (Do the Right Thing), the dedicated actor giving it his all as the unbalanced Werewolf. His performance is goofy but consistent and a little embarrassing, yet his career survived this unfortunate role and he has since redeemed himself with awesome work in better shows like Breaking Bad.
The real star of this production is Stan Winston’s creature design work. There’s plenty of buildup to its reveal, but it proves to be worth the wait. The rest of the supporting cast is fine, but they fade into the background whenever the monster is onscreen. There are no real human stinkers in the bunch, but nobody stands out as particularly exceptional either. To be fair, I don’t think any of the actors in this movie want to be remembered for that mutant-human-shark flick they made back in ’98. Peter Benchley’s Creature is not a bad film so much as it is a good story swallowed by a bigger fish. Drop a few of the meandering subplots and shave off ninety minutes and you might find something fun. This is one of those miniseries that best plays in the background while you clean the house...or wait for water to boil.
Video and Audio:
Creature looks pretty fantastic with a new widescreen transfer restoring the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, as it was televised in a 1.33:1 full frame version. Contemporary audiences spoiled by 16x9 TV screens will appreciate the effort, as the added information opens up the frame, lending a more cinematic feel to the production. Colors and black levels are strong and well-balanced, although there are some slight issues with clarity in the darker scenes that dominate the last half hour.
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is surprisingly active, yet not robust. Music and effects cues benefit the most, particularly when the titular creature is doing sinister things. Rear channels come to life during the sequences in the tunnels under the base and dialogue remains free from distortion.
There are no extra features on this disc.